Did you know that 70 percent of patients in need of a bone marrow transplant don’t have a matching donor in their family? Whoa. The good news: taking action is as easy as getting your cheek swabbed!
For those that aren’t too sure about all the details of becoming a bone marrow donor, we sat down with Be The Match’s (the National Marrow Donor Program ) Nadya Dutchin to get you answers. Check out the interview below.
What happens during bone marrow donation?
There are two ways to donate: Peripheral Blood Stem Cell procedure (PBSC) and the traditional bone marrow method. During PBSC, blood is drawn from one arm, passes through a machine that separates the stem cells, and the remaining blood is put back into the other arm. 75 percent of marrow donation occurs this way.
The traditional method involves taking marrow directly from the back of the pelvis. There is no tampering with the spine, cutting or removal of bone involved, as commonly thought.
Does donating bone marrow hurt?
Donating marrow and stem cells involves a measure of discomfort, but I haven’t directly heard of anyone saying the word “pain.” It’s uncomfortable, certainly, but it doesn’t compare to the actual pain and side-effects the patient goes through.
Are there side effects?
The only side effects to speak of are the flu-like and achy feeling during the prep process for PBCS and after the marrow donation.
What are the long-term effects of donating marrow?
We haven’t seen any long term side effects from donating – we monitor our donors very closely (until they tell us to leave them alone, in fact) for many years after they donate to ensure that the donation process didn’t cause any unforeseen harm.
Does bone marrow donation involve any risk?
The risks of donation are pretty similar to donating blood or having any type of surgery. There may be swelling around the needle sites and we actually monitor the effects of the first Filgrastim  shot very closely to make sure there are no negative reactions. With the surgery, the risks are the same as any outpatient surgery with a similar risk from general anesthesia.
Who needs a marrow transplant?
People with leukemia, lymphoma, Sickle Cell Disease, Fanconi’s anemia and about 70 other diseases need a transplant. For many, this is a cure for their condition.
What are the actual chances of finding a suitable donor?
Chances of finding a suitable match vary by the ethnicity of the patient.
Why are young people of varying ethnicity so important to the donor registry?
There is a large disparity in the number of ethnic patients who need a match and suitable donors from the same ethnicity to donate to them. We need more people from the African-American, Latino, Asian/Pacific Islander, Native American and multi-racial communities to step up and join in greater numbers. People who are between the ages of 18-44 are most likely to be selected as a donor for patients in need because transplant doctors want to give them their best chance at recovery. It is very, very important that we have younger, healthier people join and be committed to donating to a patient when we call them.